Cover Letter Essay

Academic Cover Letters

When you're applying for a faculty position with a college or university, the cover letter is your first chance to make a strong impression as a promising researcher and teacher. Below you'll find some strategies for presenting your qualifications effectively in an academic context.

Distinctions between Academic and Business Cover Letters

A cover letter for an academic job has a function similar to one for a business job, but the content differs significantly in quantity and kind. While the general advice for business cover letters—such as tailoring your letter for the specific job and selling your strengths—still applies, a cover letter for an academic position should be long enough to highlight in some detail your accomplishments during your graduate education in research, teaching, departmental service, and so on. The typical letter is thus usually one and a half to two pages long, but not more than two—roughly five to eight paragraphs.

The First Paragraph

In the opening of your letter you need to convey some basic information, such as what specific position you are applying for (using the title given in the job notice) and where you learned of the opening. Since a cover letter is a kind of persuasive writing (persuading a hiring committee to include you on a list of candidates for further review), the first paragraph of your letter should also make the initial claim as to why you are a strong candidate for the position.

Tailoring for Your Audience

In an academic context knowing your audience means reading the job notice carefully and knowing the type of institution to which you are applying. Most graduate students have studied a broad range of material within their discipline before specializing in a narrow field for the dissertation project. Since it is rare to find a job notice specifying your exact qualifications, you need to emphasize those aspects of your graduate training that seem particularly relevant to the position advertised.

  • Job notice: If you've written a political science dissertation on populism in early twentieth-century US national politics, you probably won't respond to a notice seeking a specialist in international politics during the Cold War. But you may wish to apply for a position teaching twentieth-century US political parties and movements. In this case you would want to stress the relevance of your dissertation to the broad context of twentieth-century US politics, even though the study focuses narrowly on the pre-World War I period. You might also highlight courses taken, presentations given, or other evidence of your expertise that corresponds to the job notice.
  • Type of institution: Often the job notice will provide a brief description of the college or university, indicating such factors as size, ownership (public, private), affiliation (religious, nonsectarian), geography (urban, suburban, rural), and so on. These factors will influence the kind of information emphasized in your letter. For example, for a job at a small liberal arts college that focuses on undergraduate teaching, you would emphasize your teaching experience and pedagogical philosophy early in the letter before mentioning your dissertation. On the other hand, for a job at a large research university you would provide at least one detailed paragraph describing your dissertation early in the letter, even indicating your plans for future research, before mentioning your teaching and other experience.

Other Advice

If you're still working on your dissertation, you should mention somewhere in the letter when you expect to be awarded the Ph.D., even being as specific as to mention how many chapters have been completed and accepted, how many are in draft version, and what your schedule for completion is. Last-paragraph tips include the following:

  • Mention your contact information, including a phone number where you can be reached if you will be away during a holiday break.
  • If you will be attending an upcoming major professional conference in your field, such as the MLA convention for language and literature professionals, indicate that you will be available for an interview there. Be sure to mention that you are available for telephone or campus-visit interviews as well.
  • If you have some special connection to the school, type of institution, or region, such as having attended the school as an undergraduate or having grown up in the area, you may wish to mention that information briefly at some point.
  • Mention your willingness to forward upon request additional materials such as writing samples, teaching evaluations, and letters of recommendation.

Job seekers at Purdue University may find value in the Purdue Career Wiki.

Seth had been sending out an old resume to his networks that was not achievement and metrics focused, and he was getting a lukewarm response. We loaded his resume with lots of numbers that would convey his value to his next employer.

One of the issues we negotiated with Seth is that he wanted to market himself both as a capital projects executive and a sourcing/supply chain executive. While these two areas often intersect, there was potential to write different resumes for these two focal points. We ended up with three versions of his resume: this one (which was all-encompassing but through a capital projects lens), plus a version targeted for capital projects and another for sourcing. In the end, he ended up using this more complete version for the majority of his job search activities.

We mentioned the companies where Seth had worked in the top summary because BIGBIO is an extremely well-known large company and we also wanted him to come across as marketable to smaller companies.

Rather than have a Core Competencies section, we placed Seth’s 3 most important skills under his title, and, since they fit, put the rest of his key competencies in a bullet. We also used the top bullets to provide a sense of the range of industries and functions where he has experience/expertise.

For each of his positions, we chose an overarching accomplishment followed by bullets of how he achieved the larger project wins.

Seth had a huge uptick in the response he was getting from his networks. He obtained a position as Senior Director of Capital Project Management at a global engineering & consulting company in the biotech sphere.

Capital Project Management Executive – VP / Director Sample Resume

0 Replies to “Cover Letter Essay”

Lascia un Commento

L'indirizzo email non verrà pubblicato. I campi obbligatori sono contrassegnati *